A Soccer Mom's Letter to the Summit High School Administration

A controversial look at the administration of Summit High School and the type of parents who perpetuate it.

Dear Summit High School                                              Administration,                                                                                            

                I have been a loyal Summit resident for over 30 years now and I just wanted to share my approval of your policies.  I have never seen a school administration that was so friendly, hard-working, and fiscally responsible.

                Let me first share my thoughts of our school’s financial state.  I give two big thumbs up!  Your administration has overseen many useful innovations funded by the Summit taxpayer.  Your extensive installation of Smart Boards and ELMO technology has made certain that old, obsolete technology such as the whiteboard and textbooks never sees the light of day.  These mediocre educational tools are a thing of the past.  Rumor has it that they are even being used In Elizabeth and Newark!  That’s an embarrassment.  They should not be allowed near our prestigious learning environment that is Summit High School!

                I must commend your technology budget as well.  Due to your economical and effective management of Summit High School’s technology funds, every Summit High School student, regardless of age, color, gender or sexual orientation, will be permitted to play online games at the speed of light.  He or she will finally be able to check his or her March Madness bracket within seconds!  No longer will the rustic, outmoded technology of last year taint our fine educational institution!

 Myself and my fellow taxpayers have finally convinced our opponents who cry “fiscal irresponsibility” that we are helping children more with this current administration than ever before.  We have shown our town that those who are not willing to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to our schools not only hate children, but are abusive parents!  Shame!  Such stinginess makes me sick.  But, I digress.  Your administration’s achievements don’t end there!

                Our state-of-the-art library, filled to the brim with a collective hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of literature has made fine barriers for hide-and-go-seek during study hall.  Our students now have a monstrous selection of books to jokingly hide in a fellow students backpack to make the detector (also worth thousands of dollars), go off.  These are the kind of results I expect.  But it doesn’t end there, my friends.  Our modern library is staffed by two, not one, but two, informative and helpful librarians.  Their Master’s degrees and six figure salaries guarantee that no table will hold more than four students during study hall.  They’re expertise has also holds true with their disciplinarian abilities, writing up the foolish children who leave two minutes early for lunch.  Such rebellion will not stand!  Last but not least, these public servants will leave no New York Times Crossword unfinished!

                But enough of the library, you know how useful it is; you fund it!  I now move to our school’s brand new Media Studio located near the gym.  This technological wonder promises entertainment for all that attend.  Make a funny face in front of the green screen!  Change your background to a cute koala bear!  You can even edit iMovie so that your opening credits appear underwater!  There’s no limit to the advancements in technology our school can undergo!  This media studio has ensured that Summit High School can remain as far away budget-wise and culture-wise from the crumbling, disgraceful schools east of here.  We’re better than that, and we’ve got the money to prove it!

                The new auditorium is spectacular as well!  Quite a genius design if I do say so myself.  Those new light fixtures were worth the wait!  And that wood paneling?  Déjà vu!  This environmental cleanup project made the auditorium free of harmful chemicals.  And just in time!  These detrimental substances were only now becoming dangerous (I was told that the decades before this don’t count).  And to hear that over the course of the project, after tens of thousands were spent, almost 6 jobs were created?  Incredible!  I now know that movement is always equal to progress!

                On to Physical education.  What a fantastic program!  In regard to physical education teachers, our fine school boasts and incredible 37.5% teacher retention rate since 2008!  Now that’s stability!  These fine instructors oversee all push-up completion matters, brandishing their magical powers of minus 2!  And right they should!  Any stressed-out overweight self-conscious child with social problems should be made to pay if he or she skips a push-up.  If they don’t learn from an over-chiseled, narcissistic, power-hungry "teacher", who will they learn from?  Their parents?  I chuckle at the thought!  Moral lessons need to be taught by complete strangers and no one else.  I would also like to convey my support of your salary formula.  It is always great to hear that a chief executive of a major retail corporation or a lead chemist from a giant pharmaceutical company is on the same pay level as someone whose sole ability is organizing red and blue teams for soccer.

                If you will allow me, I must quickly respond to the recent, outlandish criticisms of your administration.  Those on the “Fiscally responsible” Side have expressed their desire of installing a mirror in the upstairs men’s room and eliminating that smell in the main stairwell or even, and brace yourself for this one: Air conditioning!  Really?  Since when is a comfortable learning environment more important than new technology?  If we don’t keep up with every single new piece of equipment, useful or not, our school will fall behind.  And the more we fall behind, the more we become like the Undesirable Schools.  I shudder at the thought.  And besides, who wants their name on the new air conditioning grant?  No one that’s who.  The simple fact of the matter is Summit is too prestigious for dirty, industrial knickknacks like a mirror or air conditioning.  We have a reputation to maintain, and a good one at that!

                The other day, I saw one of your administrators, a Mr. Anthony Akey, in the senior parking lot prosecuting  parking sticker violations.  He seemed to be out on patrol for almost a full hour, making sure not a single vacant spot was filled illicitly.  Let me say, that’s $150,000 a year well spent!  Who needs outdated, non-social duties like staff meetings or teacher review when there are laughs to be had?  Oh, and on the subject of Mr. Akey, let’s keep this “Akey Responds” thing going.  I read a few articles, and I chuckled to say the least!  Never before have I seen such wit!  “Where there’s young independent thought, there’s a suicide to be provoked!” That’s what I always say, and it looks like Tony’s one step ahead!  Or eight morning lates ahead!   I suppose this is where he makes most of his salary.

                Lab days have always been a favorite of mine.  Why have a regular amount of chemistry or biology when you can double it without a break!  Everyone knows those are the most popular career fields, so they should be treated as such.

                Your block scheduling idea was fantastic too!  I mean let’s be honest, you and I both know that these projects are always “3-5 years away”, but changing the whole day like that to make students feel like they’re not part of the systematic machine, and, more importantly, making them feel like they can change something?  Genius!  Ever since I heard of that walkout (the one where you threatened to suspend anyone who was absent for a day) I knew something needed to quell the unrest.  But, once again, you’re way ahead of me.  This just keeps reminding us that free speech and thought is not a luxury we can afford these days.  My darling-angel can’t be left to his own thoughts!  He’d be using marijuana or even doing sex to girls!  No.  I can’t have that.  My child will learn the discipline of imitation.  He will learn from your stern institution that it is not acceptable to make the same mistakes we all never made as children.  Perfection demands it!

                On a lighter note, the only concern I have with your students is that many of your seniors are not aware that eight morning lates results in loss of parking “privileges”.  Perhaps telling them some more at random times during lunch should jog their memory.

                Anyway, I’m afraid I must cut this short, as my lunch break is almost over.  I suppose, in conclusion, keep up the good work!  I’m with you, and I know most of the town is with you!  Good luck in your future endeavors!



The Summit Taxpayer


P.S. My son recently graduated from college and is currently looking for a job.  He majored in Philosophy and minored in Sociology, and I was wondering if you would consider hiring him.  And when you do, it would be great if you could start him three pay grades above the normal rate.  That would be super.  Otherwise this donation fund or whatever might find itself light this year.  Thanks again.

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Gordon April 24, 2012 at 03:16 AM
T Durden - You "don't see why the trailer solution is not aggressively pursued and implemented immediately"? Because they are not needed. There is sufficient space in the district, and redistricting would solve the overcrowding immediately and also give back Franklin its art, music and computer rooms. Yes - some people would be affected - but people are affected by all sorts of things in life. That happens to be part of life. Property values are not relevant to BoE decisions.
T Durden April 24, 2012 at 03:39 AM
..im interested, so where is the extra space at the other elementary schools? which schools? how many classrooms? do u have that info?...or was that just thrown out there?...does the boe determine which neighborhhoods/homes will be moved? when eliminating distance and safety requirements how many neighborhoods/homes will actually be be able to be redistricted? how long will this study take? 6 mos? 1 yr? so that means it will get pushed out until 2014? Is that timely? i find it comical when people feel the need to define what a bureaucracy does...in any event, these are more or less political appointments..yes political..I'm all for an elected boe...again this admin and boe have had years to come up with a solution and it appears we are still 2 years from getting it if redistricting or construction is on the table...
T Durden April 24, 2012 at 04:29 AM
i, like many others, prefer to limit the financial impact to tax payers. to say that the redistricting is the only responsible action seems glib and obtuse. do you have a real understanding of the true financial and economic impact of redistricting? I do not. As I've stated my concern is my property value. one of the bigger inputs in determining the value of my property is the perceived value of the school system. from the actual data and anecdotal info, it appears young families, on the margin, are choosing Franklin neighborhoods over other school neighborhoods. so if my property is deemed by the unelected boe and superintendent to be redistricted because I'm on the other side of ashland and that has some impact on the value of my asset then yes I have an issue. It may or may not, i will admit i have no idea. what I do know is that this group has had years to address this issue and there has been no solution. so a budget has been set for 2013...we have no solution..we are going to be hit with a 3.6% tax increase even without a solution for Franklin...what are we talking about here!! bring on the trailers...
Gordon April 24, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Sorry - I assumed you were aware of the detailed Population Study that was presented at the BoE meeting last week. It was the most well attended BoE meeting ever, (mainly Franklin residents). The documents can be found at http://www.summit.k12.nj.us/. The study is fairly comprehensive and shows where space is available in the district and where it is likely to be available over the next five years. It clearly shows that there is sufficient space within the district and where that space is located. It may not be where people want it to be located! While there is not quite enough detail given for me to determine a solution, it is clear that enough data is available, but no one has the nerve to state the clear and obvious solution. Many people at the meeting were questioning the methodology. I am a scientist and the methodology looked very sound to me. Looking at possible solutions I do not believe that most possible solutions actually involve space and distance issues, and some may even prove safer. I don't believe I am being glib, and certainly not obtuse. I think if you look at the hard data, (and put aside property value issues), you will have to stretch hard to disagree with the correct but politically distasteful conclusion. What was not really addressed in detail is that the High School population is going to grow over the next few years by 25%, which is a huge increase.
Gordon April 24, 2012 at 02:28 PM
FYI - I believe that almost the entire 3.6% tax increase to which you refer is due to a 10%+ county tax increase, so it is a little unfair to blame the BoE or Summit City Council for that one. Perhaps time to secede from Union County?
Bill Wilson April 24, 2012 at 03:37 PM
On the study that was presented at the board meeting, it was very sloppily put together. No attribution of statistics, no assumptions clearly laid out, cryptic line items, etc. For example, one page show a partiucular zone with a label .75 Franklin, .75 Brayton and .2 Jefferson (or somethign like that... I am doing this from memory). According to my math, that is well north of 100%. And if those numbers were not meant to add up to 100%, then how about a footnote/label/anything that would make the information understandable? I am told the guy who put this together is "the best" which makes me very sad about the quality demanded of vendors to our government departments. And how much did we pay for this supposed first-class study?
Bill Wilson April 24, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Bill Wilson April 24, 2012 at 03:42 PM
On the study that was presented at the board meeting, it was very sloppily put together. No attribution of statistics, no assumptions clearly laid out, cryptic line items, etc. For example, one page show a partiucular zone with a label .75 Franklin, .75 Brayton and .2 Jefferson (or somethign like that... I am doing this from memory). According to my math, that is well north of 100%. And if those numbers were not meant to add up to 100%, then how about a footnote/label/anything that would make the information understandable? I am told the guy who put this together is "the best" which makes me very sad about the quality demanded of vendors to our government departments. And how much did we pay for this supposed first-class study?
MsSummit April 24, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Bill: Yes, you are correct, I noticed that same discrepancy, where the split summed to greater than 100, and was equally confused and looked for footnote (none exists). What is really odd is that when the LH issue related to class size came up, this was the response from the district, related to how they staff the schools, you can find this on the district website, posted under FAQs about Class Size: • How does the district forecast the number of staff needed? Here is the response: "In October of each year a demographer projects student population at each grade level and at each school. The cohort survival technique tracks historical changes as a tool to project future enrollments. These projections are used for developing the budget for the subsequent year. As the year comes to a close in June, classes that are on or near the guideline are monitored carefully in case there are changes that necessitate modifications to sections." My question is, if each October a demographer is reviewing student population, how is it that the Franklin issue just got flagged this year?, surely they should have been able to project this several years ago, no? Especially if the school has already lost music and art space. Why has it taken them this long to address? And, if you were at the bd mtg, you may have heard reference to a study that was done "before the current admin started"--why didn't any of them look at it, who did it, was it accurate? BTW, I think this cost us 30k.
Bill Wilson April 24, 2012 at 04:26 PM
30k... That gets us two trailers at Franklin. Absolutely unbelievable!
MsSummit April 24, 2012 at 05:49 PM
What the 30k bought us was the ability for our administration to have an "outsider" take the heat for what is the obvious resolution for a problem that should have been tagged and addressed several years ago--that being the need for a redistricting to better balance classroom use throughout the elementary schools. At the time they were building the primary centers this had to have been known. But our cowardly superintendent doesn't want to be the one to pull the redistricting lever. Saddest of all is the fact that the report clearly identifies a bulging high school problem, that the board and/or superintendent have neatly sidestepped, saying it is not a problem. Anyone with a child in the high school knows that a 25% increase (which is expected to go beyond this 5 yr projection) is not going to be accomodated by the current building size and/or layout. It won't affect me directly, but it will affect every parent in the district with a hs student rising up in the next 3-4 years, and, if the HS declines further in terms of status, it will affect everyone's property value, as nobody will want to purchase a home in Summit when NP, Millburn, and other surrounding communities have much more highly rated high school programs. If any money should be spent, it should be on the high school. The elementary schools have plenty of space.
Gordon April 24, 2012 at 06:53 PM
You have to add down not across. I believe LH does not come to 100% because of rounding. I agree that it could be "footnoted" better. FYI - this "Census Tract" data is pretty much irrelevant to the matter at hand. It just allows them to tie in to home sales, incomes, ethnicity etc.
Gordon April 24, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I believe the study cost $8.5K not $30K.
A Realm Twist April 24, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Tis $8.5K. That'll get you half a trailer. And on the topic of property value, how do you think plopping two trailers into you local elementary school will looks to young families looking to buy a house? I have a feeling that telling incoming parents that their "precious little babies will be taught in a trailer" sounds a bit disconcerting. Either way your property value should have no meaning to the BoE, they are not the "Board of Listening to Self-Centered Property Owners." Maybe you should suggest forming one of those. Best Wishes, An Informed Student
Bill Wilson April 24, 2012 at 07:55 PM
My high school had four trailers and our college admissions list was a LOT more impressive than Summit's.
A Realm Twist April 24, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Bill- I'm not trashing trailers, I'm just saying that it does sound good to people moving into the area.
Gordon April 24, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Mine too. But there is already capacity in the district. There is no need for trailers or construction; just redistricting.
Bill Wilson April 24, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Are you SURE there's capacity? I would be really bad if we redistrict only to learn in 2-3 years' time -- or sooner -- that the schools that received the excess students from Franklin themselves are overcrowded.
T Durden April 25, 2012 at 01:51 AM
...my memory is failing me on this but why was Wilson closed?..was there a study done back then that came to that conclusion? ...its clear those demographic projections were wrong...just saying...especially since Franklin seems to have had this lack of rooms issue for almost a decade now.. ...going through this presentation leaves me with more questions...Franklin and Jefferson seem to be the 2 outliers in terms of space...but since these 2 zones do not share a boundary a simply solution shifting students between these two zones is not viable ..but does Jefferson really have the space implied? It looks like they get extra space by combining classes but Jefferson seems to house many services that require rooms that most of the other schools do not have such as autistic, Lld, spec ed, Ot/pt, else etc...so the question is does Jefferson really have the extra space implied? anyone? if the reality is that Jefferson does not actually have the space then what the heck are we talking about here?...rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic? ...all your points about the future high school enrollments are valid...you don't have to be moneyball stat guru to figure out what all these current at capacity or over capacity elementary schools will mean for high school enrollment in 5 years...but hey, it appears this school's admin/super and the non elected boe are on top of this...im sure they'll have a solution all ready to go for 2025...
Gordon April 25, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Bill - Nothing in life is certain, including buying a house in one elementary zone and finding you self redistricted to another. Life happens, demographics shift, four families on the same street could have triplets. We could spend millions building an addition to Franklin and it could grow even more. All that said, I believe that the data are pretty clear and are at http://www.summit.k12.nj.us/ The presentation could be cleaner, footnotes could be added, it could be more polished but the underlying data look solid. The data are not broken down enough for me to be 100% certain; for that we would need by grade, by school, by street data and even then there are houses on the market, no one knows for certain who will be in them at the end of the summer. None of this justifies huge taxpayer expense.
Gordon April 25, 2012 at 02:00 AM
There are 3 "general use" classrooms available at Jefferson. These are above and beyond all the other "special use" rooms. Franklin will be at a deficit of 3 "general use" classrooms next year. Currently the art room, music room and next year, the computer room have been converted to "general use". So while Franklin looks like it is short 1 room it is really short 3.
T Durden April 25, 2012 at 02:12 AM
yes Gordon, that's my pt...we r getting jammed with this tax increase and none of it is going to address the issues we have in summit like the Franklin overcrowding and now the future high school space problem 5 years from now..and yes to ur last question ;)
T Durden April 25, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Gordon, i must be reading this wrong...it states in the presentation that Jefferson has 2 esl classes being taught in the cafeteria right now...I guess I was just assuming they freed up the classrooms (by combining classes) to meet requirements for these special services...
Gordon April 25, 2012 at 03:58 AM
I believe Wilson closed at least 30 years ago and was put to other use by the city in the interim. Kinda hard to fault them for that.
james poyner April 25, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Sounds to me like it's time for this person to move elsewhere. Taxes in New Jersey, in general, are horrendous. But singling out the Summit school district as the cause is simply stupid. You remind me of the little old lady a few years ago that showed up to protest the expansion of Franklin Elementary. She asked why there needed to be a computer lab at the school when her children had graduated in the '60s without one and turned out just fine. it's always the people whose kids have already graduated from the district who bitch the most about the ongoing costs of maintaining a great school system.
Gordon April 25, 2012 at 02:28 PM
James - not sure if you are referring to me, or to one of the other posters? If it is me then you will see from my posts above, that my only point is that there is already sufficient elementary capacity in the district and that redistricting is the appropriate solution, and that it should happen right now so that in the upcoming school year all schools in Summit will have a music room, art room and computer lab. I am against building an addition to a school, while there is already sufficient "in district" space. As far as computers go, I was the the individual parent who pressed the school board aggressively into adding a computer science program to the Summit High School - we were the only district out of nine neighboring districts without one. The program started this year with 19 students, (despite not being published in the 2011-2012 Program of Studies), they added a new Java class this semester, and will roll out AP Computer Science next school year. The Math supervisor and the newly hired CS teacher have done a great job of rolling out this program. I assume you were referring to one of the other posters and not me; it's just that you post came after mine. I also pointed out above that the tax increase of 3.6% was not due either to The City or BoE, but to a 10%+ Union County increase.
Gordon April 25, 2012 at 03:41 PM
T Durden - Not sure regarding the cafeteria ESL issue. If that is the case, then the calculus clearly changes.
SummitSportsPlayer April 25, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I'm so happy for once in my life as a high school student, that a voice is heard. I have been thinking many of the same points of this article for a while now and thought that there was no possible way to make a difference. Or if i ever tried, would be severely reprimanded or looked down upon by the administration. I hope that some of the criticisms can be taken to thought, especially with some of the drastic consequences of "4 to a table," "leaving early for lunch," or my personal favorite, the misuse of tax money and still not installing an airconditioning system throughout the school. Thank-you Francis Jay, it may only seem like a letter, but it speaks volumes of the thoughts and voices for previous and fellow students.
Summitclassof88 April 26, 2012 at 09:42 PM
As a former Summit High School student looking for a home locally, I am wary of the Summit School system. As a alum, I am tempted to look for a house in NP, Milburn, Chatham, etc.. Even though I hated those schools growing up, I feel as a parent of two that my children could have a better opportunity there.
Gil Herald May 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Just watching the administration read this letter would make my day! Akey gets all red in the face lookin like humpty dumpty


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